A new form of cheating on your partner

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were out to dinner and she dropped what I first thought was a bombshell. She told me that she was cheating on me when I was out of town. What was more alarming was that she told me she was doing this by herself. But it wasn’t what you might think and her behavior had nothing to do with our love life.

What she was talking about was this. She was watching by herself one of our favorite TV shows that we had recorded on our DVR. When I was out of town, she watched the show without me. Okay, I’ll admit that it took a few minutes before my heart rate returned to normal. But she isn’t the only one using the cheating term in that fashion.

nnnApparently, Netflix is too. In a survey last month, it found that 10% of couples who were in a committed relationship – meaning that they agreed to watch the same movies or shows together – cheated on each other. They even produced this charming video to illustrate their point of “watching ahead”:

Certainly, this is alarming and something that should be addressed by the moral leaders of our times. (Jimmy Kimmel has already weighed in.) Video streaming has enabled this entire culture of binge viewing: you start at episode n and keep watching several series one after another until you reach 3 am exhausted. I first got into this mode on a trip last year to Australia, when I found the entire first season of Homeland on the plane’s video system. The 12-hour flight was almost long enough to watch all 12 episodes. This certainly made the flight pass quicker.

But is your marriage healthy enough to stand up to your video streaming contract, let alone the other kinds? Are we going to see video streaming fidelity being written into pre-nups now? This is the new area that technology brings us in modern living. It is bad enough that we have to trust our partners not to view particular websites of questionable content (I won’t go into details, but I think you know what I mean). Now we have to worry about what other things that can pass for joint entertainment too.

In the Netflix ad, the female partner has obviously seen the movie that the couple is supposedly watching together for the first time, and faking her reactions to particular plot points before her male partner makes her come clean. I guess this shows that we have a lot more to worry about (female) fakery than we once thought. Life was so simple, back when we had to buy or rent the actual DVDs or go to the movie theater, or had to record to VHS tapes.

Like other kinds of potential cheating, you can avoid the eventual nastiness if you take the time to communicate with your partner about your rights and obligations. And whether you have enough Internet bandwidth when you are out of town too.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about what you and your partner are doing about this important social issue, and whether you too have watched ahead of your partner.

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